Homeowners/Property Insurance FAQs
Q: What are some practical things I can do to lower the cost of my homeowners insurance?
A: There are a number of things you can do to lower the cost of your homeowners insurance. The easiest thing to do is get a comprehensive review of your policy and needs from your local agent.
It’s not surprising to find quotes on homeowners insurance that vary by hundreds of dollars for the same coverage on the same home. When you shop, be careful to make sure each insurer is offering the same coverage.
Another way to lower the cost of your homeowners insurance is to look for any discounts that you may qualify for. For example, many insurers will offer a discount when you place both your automobile and homeowners insurance with them. Other times, insurers offer discounts if there are deadbolt exterior locks on all your doors, or if your home has a security system. Be sure to ask us to look into these discounts for you.
Another easy way to lower the cost of your homeowners insurance is to raise your deductible. Increasing your deductible from $250 to $500 will lower your premium, sometimes by as much as five or ten percent.
Q: What does homeowners insurance cover?
A: The typical homeowners policy has two main sections: Section I covers the property of the insured, and Section II provides personal liability coverage for the insured. Almost anyone who owns or leases property has a need for this type of insurance. Usually, homeowners insurance is required by the lender to obtain a mortgage.
Q: What is the difference between “actual cash value” and “replacement cost”?
A: Covered losses under a homeowners policy can be paid on either an actual cash value basis or on a replacement cost basis. When “actual cash value” is used, the policy owner is entitled to the depreciated value of the damaged property. Under the “replacement cost” coverage, the policy owner is reimbursed an amount necessary to replace the article with one of similar type and quality at current prices.
Q: What factors should I consider when purchasing homeowners insurance?
A: Here’s a checklist of things you should consider when you purchase homeowners insurance:
Determine the amount and type of insurance that you need. The coverage limit of your house should equal 100% of its replacement cost. If your policy limit is less than 80% of the replacement cost of your home, any payment from your insurance company will be less than the full cost to replace your home. You’ll have to pay the rest out of your own pocket. Also, decide if the personal property and personal liability limits are adequate for your needs. Determine which, if any, additional endorsements you want to add to your policy. For example, do you want the personal property replacement cost endorsement, an earthquake endorsement, or a jewelry endorsement?
Once you’ve decided on the coverage you want in your homeowners insurance policy, consult us. We’ll be able to help you determine if there are any gaps in coverage you might not have been aware of and explain the details of the policy’s exclusions and limitations, as well as recommend an insurance company that will live up to your expectations.
Q: What are the policy limits (i.e., coverage limits) in the standard homeowners policy?
*Note: this answer is based on the Insurance Services Office’s HO-3 policy.
A: The dwelling and other structures on the premises are protected on an “all risks” basis up to the policy limits. “All risks” means that unless the policy specifically excludes the manner in which your home is damaged or destroyed, there is coverage. The policy limit for the dwelling is set by the policy owner at the time the insurance is purchased. The policy limit for the other structure is usually equal to 10% of the policy limit for the dwelling.
Losses to your personal property are covered on a “named perils” basis. “Named perils” means that you have coverage only when your property is damaged or destroyed in the manner specifically described in the policy. The policy limit on the coverage is equal to 50% of the policy limit on the dwelling. Limits for the coverage for the additional expenses that the policy owner may incur when the residence cannot be used because of an insured loss is equal to 20% of the policy limit on the dwelling.
The coverage limit on personal liability is determined by the policy owner at the time the policy is issued. The coverage limit on medical payments to others is usually set at $1000 per injured person.
Q: Where and when is my personal property covered?
A: Personal property (except property that is specifically excluded) is covered anywhere in the world. For example, suppose that while traveling, you purchased a dresser and you want to ship it home. Your homeowners policy would provide coverage for the named perils while the dresser is in transit, even though the dresser has never been in your home before.
Q: Do I need earthquake coverage, and how can I get it?
A: The standard insurance policy does not pay for direct damages caused by earth movement. “Earth movement” is a much broader term than “earthquake”. It includes earthquakes, volcanic activity, and other earth movement. This coverage may be available by endorsement for an additional charge. If you live in an area that is more likely to have an earthquake, you’ll pay more than if you live in an area that is unlikely to have one. We can help you weigh the costs and benefits of this coverage before you decide to purchase.